Somewhere, over the rainbow, a blog is born. A blog for Kansas. A blog for America. A blog by a reporter with a difficult-to-pronounce last name. But most importantly, a blog that is AMERICA'S ONLY PLACE dedicated to the vital intersection of politics and Sunflowers. The Heartland gods nod in wise approval.

Thursday, September 30, 2004

First impression

I made it a point to check my e-mail in the first hour after the debate to see who was beating who in the inevitable avalanche of e-mail I get as a journalist.

In one hour I received exactly 50 e-mails. Forty-nine were of the "Kerry won because ..." variety. None called Bush the winner. One guy was annoyed that the candidates were allowed to take notes on the podium.

Draw whatever conclusion you wish from this.

Back and forth

Yesterday was one of those not-close-to-e-mail days, so it was embarrassingly late when I got to the bad link to Washingtonian I gave yesterday. Correct link is here. Your patience is appreciated.

On the topic of Sen. Roberts, Washingtonian's "Funniest" senator isn't laughing, according to the Hill. His intelligence plan is floundering, and Roberts himself is concerned that the plan that's advancing in the senate doesn't give a national intelligence director enough authority. A vote on intel reform is expected before Congress adjourns at the end of next week.

Sen. Brownback hit headlines twice yesterday, one for North Korea legislation and one for a hearing on embryonic stem cell research. Different lawmakers portray the stem cell debate in different ways, some of which have implications for the abortion debate. Sen. Brownback falls squarely in the when-life-begins camp. From Wired News:

Brownback persistently asked Dr. George Daley, associate professor of pediatrics and biological chemistry at the Harvard School of Medicine and Children's Hospital, to tell the subcommittee exactly how old an embryo would have to be before he would decline to use the embryo for medical research.

Daley said repeatedly he could not define when an embryo becomes a human being.

Kris Kobach picked up the Kansas Farm Bureau endorsement in KS-3. Meanwhile, a Topeka TV station pulled a Jim Ryun ad in his race against Nancy Boyda after Boyda's campaign accused the ad of violating federal campaign law. The ad charges that Boyda helped organize anti-war protests. Boyda says that's a lie, Ryun says it's the truth ...

Wichitans are gathering for the presidential debates tonight. If you're inWichita and are looking for a place to watch, click here. I plan to catch it at the National Press Club downtown, which should be packed for it tonight. And for comprehensive coverage of everything imaginable related to the debates, go here.

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Gord's gold

This morning I saw a man in blue-and-black dreadlocks playing a voice-perfect version of Gordon Lightfoot's "If You Could Read My Mind" on guitar. Kind of a bummer to know my day has already peaked -- but I give thanks to the Gord my Canadian-folk God, and for all the gold he has given us.

It coulda been a Senate campaign ... Dan Glickman testified on Capitol Hill in his new job as head of the Motion Picture Association of America for the first time on Tuesday ... before a subcommittee headed by Sen. Sam Brownback. Glickman considered running against Brownback for Senate this year, but decided against it, and arguably got a more influential job in the aftermath (all depends on where you see real power in Washington) -- he definitely got the more lucrative one.

Sen. Pat Roberts did quite well in the annual Washingtonian magazine's poll of top lawmakers. The lighthearted poll covers everything from best- and worst-dressed to "No Rocket Scientist," the meaning of which you can figure out for yourself. Roberts once again took "Funniest," and tied for third on "Just Plain Nice" among senators. The poll also has to be a relief to Rep. Jim Ryun, who in the past has placed in the "No Rocket Scientist" category. That's one race in which I'm sure he's thrilled to finish back-of-the-pack.

Bob Dole (husband of Elizabeth Dole, one of Washington's best-dressed Senators, according to Washingtonian) said John Kerry shouldn't be "intimidated" facing a sitting president in Thursday's presidential debate -- he said he was when he faced Clinton in 1996.

And meanwhile, in Wichita, a British clairvoyant is helping out on the BTK case. If you don't know about the BTK case, read all about it here. Read it really late some night when you don't want to sleep.

Sundown, you better take care ...

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Ongoing struggles

The 767 tanker scandal is a story that won't die, with accusations of withheld e-mails as Air Force Secretary James Roche remains under fire for alleged conflicts-of-interest.

For the record, Rep. Jim Ryun was the only federal officeholder in Kansas who responded to Project Vote Smart's National Political Awareness Test, which is designed to let people know where candidates stand on issues. Here's hoping for a better response rate when the Eagle send its survey.

Meanwhile, Sam Brownback is continuing his work against indecent content in media, co-sponsoring legislation with Sen. Hillary Clinton on one bill.

And in other news, looks like the condo complex is covering all-new drywall and plaster in my bathroom. Bad news is, I can't use my shower for a couple weeks. Hmpf. Little daily challenges, abounding always.

Monday, September 27, 2004

Bloggers go home

So Thursday night I'm at a concert and my date introduces me to two of her friends. "And you're all bloggers," she finished by saying.

I looked at those two guys and thought, this has gone too far. Nothing against them. I'm sure they're decent, witty, insightful human beings. But how can you appreciate songs when everyone's grabbing a microphone? The New York Times Magazine has a piece on the convention bloggers, with the big players, et. al. Hey -- the phenomenon isn't going away, nor should it. The big-league bloggers (I'm somewhere between Fargo and Topeka on that scale, I suspect) are making an impact. And the Dan Rather story wouldn't have played out as it had. But man, the air's getting pretty hot around here, and I can't help but feel apologetic for my own contribution.

The Wichita Eagle speaks out against last week's House pledge vote, saying:

Whether the pledge includes the words "under God" -- which were inserting in 1954, largely out of Cold War paranoia -- is much less important than preserving an independent judiciary.

Sen. Sam Brownback is referred to as a "so-called conservative" in the anti-immigration American Daily for co-sponsoring legislation with California Democrat Sen. Barbara Boxer that tries to keep border traffic flowing while protecting against terrorists. And with two weeks left in the congressional session, intelligence plans, including Sen. Pat Roberts's, are at the forefront of debate. Look for it to dominate the next couple weeks.

That's the quick-and-dirty of today. Now, back to the plumbers back home. Love the smell of new drywall.

The joys of home ownership

So I'm sitting on my porch at about 9, talking 'bout the Grateful Dead with my upstairs neighbor while stringing her guitar (She's no good at tuning. I have perfect pitch.), when I head into the bathroom to discover that half of my bathroom ceiling has fallen to the bottom of my bathtub.

Huh, I think -- this could be a problem.

Call the insurance company, call maintenence, get a guy over at 11:30 p.m. to tell me my upstairs neighbor's bathtub is probably leaking. Neighbor has gone to bed. Wake up neighbor to tell her she can't shower tomorrow morning. Remind neighbor that I had strung her guitar for her two hours earlier. The bad news is, I'll be showering in the office building for a few days while my ceiling gets fixed. The good news is, it looks like my condo association will cover all repairs. (The other good news is that I have a really cool upstairs neighbor -- Bob Weir signed her guitar!) But it'll probably keep Ozblog from its normal A.M. posting. Wish me luck.

Friday, September 24, 2004

But does he need an apprentice?

Hey -- Wichita officially has another billionaire. Read all about Trump friend and casino tycoon Phil Ruffin here.

Chipping away

Journalism can be fascinating because of all the things you learn that you otherwise would never learn. Journalism can be maddening because of all the things you have to learn, but have no reason to want to.

For example, this morning I've spent 20 minutes on the Web vainly trying to figure out how much it would cost to buy a special box containing v-chip technology for a TV manufactured before 2000. This is so that readers of a story I have coming out this weekend can buy the child-protection device for their TV sets, should my story move them to pursue television-filtering technology. Happy to provide the service -- but personally, because I have no children -- and should I ever have them, would certainly offer them limited TV-watching opportunities on a set manufactured in this decade -- there is no conceivable way I will have any use for this information.

I'll have to work it into conversation at some point -- maybe visit some friends-with-kids and, if they have an old TV set, say "Hey -- you could buy a v-chip set-top box for only $XX!"

I keep searching. Will have to call Best Buy when it opens.

It's amazing how packaging can affect perception. When I saw The Pitch's article on Kris Kobach earlier this week I'm like, OK, this is standard lefty alt-fare, and watched it pass by. Today, I saw the same article on Infoshop News with the headline, Kansas congressional candidate, "Kris Kobach, has neo-nazi, racist ties " and about 30 alarm bells went off. I mean, seems a bit over the top, doncha think? On the other side, we'll have to see how yesterday's House flag vote plays in the polls. The whole concept of stripping the Supreme Court of the ability to rule on anything is constitutional cuckoo-land, but as a protest vote against the judiciary, it could make some political waves. KS's three Republicans voted yes, the lone Democrat voted no.

The conservative Heritage Foundation has done an analysis of competing intelligence reform proposals, and likes much of what Sen. Pat Roberts has proposed. However, it calls his radical plan to subsume the CIA into a different organization a starting point, not a blueprint. From the report:

While the bill's notion of realigning functions and responsibilities to better support all the national critical intelligence needs has merit, it is probably not necessary to completely disrupt and restructure existing intelligence agencies to achieve these ends. Nor is it wise to overburden the National Intelligence Director with the management of multiple directorates while also requiring the director to continue to supervise the entire intelligence community. These goals might be better achieved by consolidating some existing organizations under the CIA.

And finally, the New York Review of Books just published its look at Thomas Frank's "What's the Matter With Kansas?" linking it to all sorts of right-wing phenomena (Herman Goering gets a mention in the review, for example). Thank you NYRB, but WTMW you? We've been talking about this book ALL SUMMER -- and that, unfortunately, is slowly starting to fade.

Thursday, September 23, 2004

Moore and more

Twists and turns in Moore-Kobach. The incumbent Democrat got the endorsement of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, a nice one to get when your opponent, Kobach, is running TV ads saying you're soft on defense. The KC alt-press, meanwhile, keeps up its criticism of Kobach for his stands on immigration, an area in which he's an acknowledged expert.

Meanwhile, Kobach's got Jerry Falwell and KC-area churches on his side. Falwell called for activism in Overland Park yesterday, and Kobach will be appearing at local churches for policy briefings. Along with the briefings, KC-area ministers will receive DVDs with policy positions for candidates in KS-3, Mo-5 and the Missouri gov's race. Star columnist Mike Hendricks is wondering how churches can stay tax-exempt when it appears they may be involved in -- gasp -- politics!

Hey -- a note on the Dan Rather thing, since I think this may be the only political blog in America that hasn't written on it. (Ozblog takes pride in the slow lane.) Part of D.C. journalism is learning to accept that you get lots of e-mail from monomaniacal lunatics -- but that's America, and I usually at least glance at them for a couple seconds. But one of my "regular correspondents" actually sent something related to RatherGate I thought was worth sharing -- just 'cuz you're a "nut" doesn't always mean you're nuts. Food for thought for the media-watchers, which I'm posting verbatim from the e-mail:

Another real question the MEDIA all seem to be missing on RatherGATE:

What if the forgeries had been just a bit more competent?

Practically every other major media organization gives CBS and Rather a pass or claim 'no bias, just bad reporting' but had the documents been created as competent forgeries who doubts that CBS would be sticking by them even though:

1) CBS had NO originals (as they originally claimed)
2) The source Rather claimed "unimpeachable" was anything but
3) Their was no providence for the documents
(even though CBS claimed they originated in Killian's files)
4) NONE of the CBS 'experts' would validate the documents
(several of the CBS 'experts' were not even experts)
5) CBS failed to test the documents for accuracy
(all of the contemporary officers took one look and said 'fraud'.)
6) CBS failed to use ANY source that disagreed with their BIAS
7) CBS even refused to contact sources suggested by those sources
they ignored, e.g., Killian's family recommended other officers)
8) Anyone with a minimum of computer savvy could have warned CBS

Almost any competent computers person, especially with a military background, COULD have created MUCH better fake memos.

What if the documents had looked JUST LIKE the other documents released by the White House, or the Kerry Campaign?

CBS is still be given largely a pass for NO ORIGINALS, no CLEAR authentication by experts who would SIGN their own name under "These are authentic", and no providence for the documents.

Even were these memos not fakes, CBS had NOTHING.

Nada, never a thing. They had copies of copies from an unknown source by way of an unreliable source who told CBS to authenticate them.

Imagine what a good document forger and Photoshop could have done with the basic idea if only given a few hours.....

How do you think all the so-called 'journalists' would feel if unsourced document describing their own fictitious crimes and misdemeanors started appearing -- leaving the journalists to prove themselves innocent.

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Trend story here

Since Luke Tiahrt's death in July, his father inevitably gains mentions whenever Congress and suicide come up. A thoughtful column from Jewish World Review on just how difficult addressing suicide can be.

The National Museum of the American Indian opened Tuesday, as thousands of Native Americans descended on the Mall. Wichita Indians want to bring part of the museum back with them, and Sam Brownback's been a key GOP supporter along the way -- he's making appearances at the museum festival this week. In the past year I've covered a new Smithsonian Air and Space annex, the World War II Memorial, and now this. I've always been told that a journalist can get a trend story out of three things, and I've got 'em. But what's the trend? Any ideas? I might be able to make money of it if it's good enough ...

Hey -- Jerry Falwell's coming to Wichita on Thursday.

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

A light bulb that stays on

Today marks the 96th birthday of a light bulb, turned on in a Texas theater in 1908 and never turned off. It still burns today, though it's not the longest-lasting bulb -- that honor belongs to a bulb still burning in California since 1901.

Less discerning readers might think, huh -- that's a heckuva bulb. But this just proves what I've suspected all along -- that light bulbs can burn forever, but are rigged to fail so that corporations can continue to make profits off their sales. Planned obsolescence. After all, if you only had to buy one set of light bulbs, wouldn't the world fill up with light, dramatically reducing the size and scope of the bulb industry?

(Note to self: Investigate campaign contributions of major light-bulb manufacturers. Let's "shed some light" on this.)

President Bush is leading in "blue" swing states, according to a Knight Ridder poll. Complete results here. The good thing about a landslide -- either way -- is that it may put the whole red-blue thing to rest. But there's still reflective soil to be tilled (is that a weird metaphor or what?) Essayist Roland Merullo has an essay on red-blue America in which he asks some of the key questions.

The two Americas, conservative and liberal, worship two very different gods. It's as if the fibers that make up the human psyche are spun around opposite psychological poles. But what is the essence and origin of that fundamental difference? Why is gay marriage anathema to one group and an obvious human right to the other? Why does almost exactly half the country beam with pride when George W. speaks, and the other half cringe? Why did my liberal friends talk about the Abu Ghraib scandal while my conservative friends were focusing on mutilation of hostages in Fallujah? Why do the delegates to the Republican convention have neater haircuts and less interesting clothes?


Kansas may be a bit campaign-moribund this year, but Missouri has a heckuva gov's race, with McCaskill-Blunt in "a dead heat," according to the latest polls. South Dakota's fun too -- Thune-Daschle and Diedrich-Herseth both too close to call. I know several Kansans heading north once Congress adjourns to work for the GOP. One doesn't have to venture too far to find heated politics on the Plains -- some states are just more incandescent than others.

Monday, September 20, 2004

Blog plug

Occasional Ozblog contributor William Polley's starting his own blog -- it's at http://www.mtco.com/~wpolley/academicscribbler/. He's a lot smarter than I am, so if you've managed to tolerate this space, you'll love his.

Read recently that there are 4 million blogs in existence, which I find insanely hard to believe. Four million people really do this? Do that many people have that much to say? And do people really read them? Huh.

Indians! Indians everywhere!

One of the joys of being from a small town is the joy I will always get when I see "my town" in a "big city" newspaper. Today's WashPost has a feature on my home congressional district, MN-7, and the crucial role its sugar beet industry could have on the 2004 elections. Shout-out for rural Minnesota.

I had this unnerving feeling on Metro all morning -- it just seemed at every stop, the cars got fulled with more Native Americans. This isn't any sort of racial-insecurity thing, nor do I think it's some vestigial fears from my ancestral Norwegian-settler great-grandparents on the prairie. I was just ... weird, like all my reservation sources from my cub-reporter days in Sioux Falls, South Dakota packed up and headed East. Then, the light bulb went off. Ah-ha! -- the National Museum of the American Indian opens tomorrow. Knight Ridder's got a whole package on it, led by recently retired blogger Tom Webb. Second new Smithsonian facility to open in the past year, following last year's Air and Space annex.

Big sigh of satisfaction ... my two-part series on Lt. Lonnie Moore, recovering veteran at Walter Reed, ran yesterday and today. I mentioned work on this last month, and the link to the story package is here. Would be flattered if you read it. Also, some odds 'n' ends on the delegation here.

Democratic Senate candidate Lee Jones is a heavy underdog against Sen. Sam Brownback, but that don't mean he ain't tryin'. Traveling across the state, he said today that Brownback doesn't represent Kansans. But mostly, not much is happening in the Sunflower State, as the GOP takes the state for granted.

For those of you really into the Kris Kobach-Dennis Moore race ... Kobach's doing an online chat at the Lawrence Journal-World today at 2:15 Eastern Time. Would be interested to know how it goes.

Friday, September 17, 2004

And don't forget the libertarians

This space devotes a fair amount of attention to Kris Kobach, Dennis Moore, Nancy Boyda, Jim Ryun, et. al, but what about Joe Bellis? The Johnson County Sun features a profile on the 3rd District Libertarian candidate, who previously ran for president in 2000. So, does running for a House seat feel like a stepdown from a bid for the Oval Office? Apparently not ...

"I had a desire to run for this race, and the Libertarian Party had an opening," he said.

Sen. Pat Roberts played down the negative parts of the new National Intelligence Estimate on Thursday, but did call it a "fair, well-written piece" that "represents one facet of information that informs our policy decisions and should be treated as such."

Finally, a Sotheby's auction raised $4 million for the family of Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash at a sale held on the one-year anniversary of the country legend's death. This has nothing to do with Kansas, and a lot to do with Kansas. Fly on over to the weekend.

Thursday, September 16, 2004

Curses on Blogger

OK, so I just spent an hour working on what I thought was a nicely-composed report on the news of the day using song titles from the album I'm listening to right now, "Bob Dylan: Live 1975" from his Rolling Thunder Revue. I hit Post, came back, and saw a blank screen and no record of the entry whatsoever. Curses upon you, Blogger! And now I have to head to physical therapy, so it will be several hours before I can return. And once inspiration's faded ... sigh. Maybe it'l still come up somehow.

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

All right, all right

I took some hits from GOP blog-readers for the Run Against Bush mention. Fine, fine ... wasn't trying to stray from nonpartisanship, just encouraging people to get out if they're into exercise and Kerry. Would've done the same thing for a pro-Bush group if one asked. Clearly, we must take such items on a case-by-case basis. On the other hand, it's nice to know that people care.

Though no official boxscore was kept, Rep. Todd Tiahrt started at power forward and picked up eight points, along with several rebounds and a steal, as the lawmakers trounced the lobbyists last night, 58-42. Of course, if you're a lobbyist, would you want to beat the lawmakers? I mean, Tiahrt's on the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee -- if you represent Lockheed Martin, do you reeeeaally wanna smoke his middle-aged mojo with a no-look 360, in-yo-face mad-skills supa-slam? Prob'ly not. And that's a shame, 'cuz I hear those Lockheed folks got game.

Spent much of the day at a preview for the new National Museum of the American Indian, due to open Tuesday. Really, really, really neat stuff -- and for the record, the best museum restaurant in which I've ever dined. They even gave away free tea. Put it on the go-to list if you're a local.


Todd Tiahrt's back, but not like before, after his son's suicide in July. Don't know yet whether or not he got to play basketball.

Meanwhile, the expired assault-weapons ban has started a political brushfire in KS-3, with Rep. Dennis Moore demanding that GOP opponent Kris Kobach turn back a contribution from Gun Owners of America, whose leader has spoken to white supremacist and militia groups. Kobach's keeping the money, but expect bullets to keep flying. Nancy Boyda's echoing assault-ban concerns in her race against incumbent Rep. Jim Ryun.

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Political Jock-eying

So today I got an e-mail from an uber-organizer of Run Against Bush, who appears to be under the impression that Ozblog is a medium of choice for athletic, influential, politically active residents of the Kansas City area. Clearly, the man is a genius, and he was hoping for a mention, so here goes. This Saturday the group, which so far has raised more than 350K for the Kerry campaign, is hosting races nationwide -- including KC Mo. Soooo .... anyone interested can gather at 9 a.m. to run from Sharps in Brookside to the Broadway Cafe in Westport. More info's available from abenson@midtowndemocrats.com or on the Web site above.

(This announcement in no way constitutes an endorsement of Run Against Bush or of any political activity beyond the simple joy of participating in American politics. It does prove, however, that flattery can get you places with Ozblog.)

In other politics-sports news, Rep. Todd Tiahrt got a mention in The Hill today about his participation in Hoops for Hope, an annual charity game 'tween lobbyists and lawmakers. I talked to Tiahrt about his hoop skills this afternoon. He said he's a power forward-type, likely to come off the bench. But some scheduling changes threw his participation into doubt later in the day. For more details, and a story that talks about how he's been doing in general since his son's death in July, check www.kansas.com and the blog.

Dreamin' of debates

Nothing like biking to work in the dark ... so this morning I awoke with a start from a dream about the presidential debates. Specifically, the one about domestic issues. For clairvoyance' sake and for the record, I dreamed that Bush would come out on the attack and that Kerry would fumble a question about school choice -- but would also be the first candidate to mention Jesus. Have to check back to see if that actually happens. (Regarding the larger question -- why am I dreaming about the presidential debates -- that's for me and my bartender to discuss.)

Busy day today ... a morning briefing on the Airbus tanker, an afternoon press conference on Sen. Sam Brownback and the Sudan, and tops on the agenda, Rep. Todd Tiahrt's first press conference since his son's death in July. He's promoting bills limiting lawsuits, but like everything else, that's tough not to be overshadowed. And lest we forget, Rep. Porter Goss goes before Senate Intel today. Expect tough questions, but not a close vote.

Monday, September 13, 2004


This morning I reached for the handrail on Metro -- and missed, sending me sprawling into a nearby passenger like a drunk vaudevillian stumbling a tired routine. Monday.

Political Question of the Week arises from a Washington Post Outook section piece this weekend. A rebuttal to the flavor-of-the-month "Retro vs. Metro" formula of American politics, it looks at the changing class orientation of Democrats. And I wonder -- if Republicans are known as the party that opposes abortion, and the Democrats are known as the party that opposes garages, who benefits? Something to mull over while washing dishes.

KU Young Republicans are rallying for Kris Kobach, and Dennis Moore is officially on the GOP's TV target list -- no surprise there. Of greater interest are the Missouri races, where Republicans are shooting at retiring Dem. Karen McCarthy's seat and the Dems are aiming at Rep. Sam Graves, meaning that KC-area voters will see plenty of political ads, even if some are no longer calling Missouri a swing state. And no mention of the Ryun-Boyda race ...

And finally, Wichita Eagle editorialist/columnist Philip Brownlee had my back last week while I was out, reporting on Todd Tiahrt's emotional return to Congress. The full article from The Hill is here.

Thursday, September 09, 2004

Marshmallows, beer and Canada

So I've received several e-mails this week asking, what does a glamorous Washington journalist do on vacation after a summer of hot scoops and inside revelations? Although I likely will never know the answer to that, I have spent much of my past several days holed in my luxurious Alexandria getaway, also known as "my condo." I've been discovering exotic new places in my neighborhood, such as the dry cleaners; taking day trips to Baltimore, temporary home to the Minnesota Twins; barbecuing food still left over from my July housewarming party; and above all,I've been stuggling with this #^%@%$ home computer.

I have literally been struggling with this monster for the past 10 hours. I've let viruses and adware slip into my system for months, and I vowed that this week my computer would become updated, cleaned and ready for a couple more years of service. Last weekend I downloaded Norton 2004 from Symantec, which in theory should have devirused this thing -- except that viruses had infected the innermost parts of the system software, rendering Symantec helpless. So today I erased my hard drive and started from scratch -- but even that had issues, leading to a full day on the phone with ... Canada.

Canada, for those who may not be aware, is a large nation immediately north of the 48 contiguous states. The world's largest manufacturer of paper and newsprint, Canada also exports folk singers and Playboy Playmates, the most famous of which is Pamela Anderson, author of the best-selling novel "Star." Canada also is the home of manufacturing and high-technology. Many of its companies are subsidiaries of U.S. firms -- including Microsoft's technical support division, which I learned today is headquartered in Nova Scotia.

I've spent literally hours on the phone with the 'Scotians today, receiving helpful tech advice and new product codes in soothing northern accents. After I realized during the second call that ALL tech calls went to Canada, I started having fun with it -- I learned about the history of the "twonie" and a bit about how Nova Scotians see themselves differently from other Canadians (they're friendlier). And I am now typing on my better-than-ever computer, and I am content. I barbecued some turkey sausage -- I'm down to that, soy nuggets, and some corn dogs I just discovered at the bottom of my freezer (origin unknown). And I roasted marshmallows.

I hope my neighbors don't worry about the lonely guy who stays at home all day, then grills at night before he roasts marshmallows and drinks Heineken on his front porch, alone. But they don't understand -- I have Canada behind me, and I am accomplishing great things. This blog shall return, reinvigorated for the campaign stretch, on Monday.

Monday, September 06, 2004

Thar we go again

Ragweed;s in bloom, and I'm sneezing my way through this entry. Convention's over, Congress is coming back, campaigns are in full swing, and I'm taking the week off. Haven't had a full week off since November, and I think it's starting to show. This week's top priorities is trying to make every Orioles-Twins game at Camden Yards, taking a day to get to know Baltimore -- the mysterious neighbor to the north -- and fulfilling various medical checkups. Will continue to post KS stuff as the spirit moves me.

Been thinking about the blogging concept lately. I hope the people who read this get something out of it -- it's been worthwhile, for the connections to people more than anything else. The whole phenomenon has a CB Radio feel to it, though -- I feel like media hype of it already peaked with the Democratic National Convention, when it was the big media story. All the coverage reminds me of the turn-of-the-century dot-com craze, when completely untried, unworkable products had IPOs in the billions. Just like the Internet didn't collapse, blogging won't go away -- but there's going to be a major shakeup that's probably already beginning. While there are a few Yahoo!s, Googles and Amazons out there, a lot of today's blogs are more like pets.com, destined for the dustbin of Super Bowl commercials past.

And Ozblog? I aspire to be more like an Infoseek or a Sportsline -- a promising concept that sells out to the highest bidder the first chance it gets. Big Media, are you reading?

Friday, September 03, 2004

A benediction

Some half-developed thoughts on the conventions:

The first political convention I remember watching was the Democrats in 1980. I was seven years old, and my main concern that year was that for mysterious reasons, all my favorite TV shows were off the air. No "CHiPS." No "Diff'rent Strokes." No "M*A*S*H." Just speeches, all day and into the night.

My dad, who was a year older then than I am now, sat at the TV in our Minnesota farmhouse basement, escaping the hayfield sun and watching for hours, in the midst of a transformation that made him the classic Reagan Democrat who never came back. He'd invite me to sit with him and watch the speeches. I remember him asking me who I wanted to be president. My mom liked the Kennedys -- a picture of JFK hung in the basement then -- so I said, "Ted Kennedy." Dad said no, you don't want to vote for Kennedy -- he'll raise your taxes. "OK," I said, and the rest of the week I watched the convention with my father as a fellow Reaganite, beginning a life of political vacillation that I proudly continue to the present day.

Maybe that moment warped me for life politically. But that was 1980, and that was my life, and here I am, 1,500 miles from the farm on and 24 years later, sitting in a makeshift pressroom in New York and thinking about conventions. 1980 was a watershed year in several ways. Along with the "Reagan revolution," it was the last year the three major networks carried the conventions live, gavel-to-gavel. "CHiPS" and "M*A*S*H" took a back seat then -- starting in 1984, that began to erode. I wasn't too politically savvy as a seven-year-old (don't know how savvy I am now), but I knew that whatever was happening was important -- my shows weren't on. That doesn't happen now. The erstwhile Big Three cover Merely Three hours, though the rest is on PBS and cable. It's another show on a wide schedule, and politics is just one more range of entertainment fare.

This is the part of the essay where I veer dangerously close to bemoaning a lost seriousness in American discourse. But I'm not gonna do it. The good old days were never so good, and the present isn't as bad as it seems. Even then, conventions were largely stage shows, and even now, the conventions are still important, if not as omnipresent. The messages are still crafted for the masses, and even though nearly everyone will find at least one party hopelessly cynical, we forget how fortunate we are to be in a country where those parties are forced to at least try to appeal to the public, rather than arrogantly rule with no need to explain.

And the proliferation of media makes more information available, if also easier to avoid. The three hours on the networks actually seems about right -- exposure for the news events, and overload on cable for the news junkies. Perhaps if today's media were available in 1980, my mother would have turned the TV to a cooking channel during the conventions, and I'd be a chef rather than a political writer. If that were the case the world would go on -- hey, this country needs chefs too. But even then I'd have the access -- and the ability -- to make an informed choice, and that's the foundation of freedom.

I'm rambling. It's late. We have two official nominees, and a razor race, and it will be ugly, and it will be divisive. But I'm not worried about America's future, no matter who wins. I've been watching these campaigns since 1980 -- participating in them for the first time this year -- and the people always make choices that keep the country moving ahead, though the veer may shift. Right now, this summer of conventions just feels like a dream come true for me, and right now, I'm leaving it at that.

I'm posting, I'm packing, I'm going to bed. Tomorrow it's back to the Beltway. When I get home I'll call my dad and ask him what he thought of the conventions, watching from home in Minnesota. And I'll say, thanks for watching them with me.

(I'm still conflicted about those parties, though.)

Thursday, September 02, 2004

First things first

So Bush's speech got done, and I don't even want to venture an opinion. Judging from the e-mail I get, everyone else is much more knowledgable and much more certain in their opinions than I am, so I'll let 'em argue among themselves.

My big struggle right now is with this blue balloon. I'm starting a collection of balloons from the conventions. I got red, white and blue ones in Boston, and I gathered the same here. I carefully untwist them without popping them, then I put 'em away for safe keeping. But whoever tied the blue balloon I got tied it really tight, so it's tough to unwrap. Once I'm done with that, then I'll start thinking about what the heck's happened to America.

Eyes and ears

Ah, to have others serve as eyes and ears -- especially when these eyes are about to take a nap.

Intrepid St. Paul-via-Wichita reporter Tom Webb reports that Matt Schlapp spoke at the Minnesota GOP delegation breakfast this morning. Webb said the former Todd Tiahrt aide, now White House Political Director "did a great job" speaking on how the GOP can win this fall.

And former Eagle reporter Arturo Garcia notes that Kansas is referred to in a popular Internet list this week called "1001 Reasons to Hate the RNC":

1000. Delegates from Kansas spotting Dave Chappelle on the streets 50 times a day.

(Note: Eight African Americans are included in the Kansas delegation.)


Ran into Sen. Sam Brownback on his way back from mass at St. Patrick's Cathedral. He was wearing what appeared to be flip-flops. "No, they're just sandals," he said. "I'm not trying to make a political statement."


Delegates aren't supposed to wear their badges outside the convention, but I wear my press badge everywhere -- I'm not a delegate, and if I have my credentials around my neck I won't lose them. And I had completely forgotten I had identified myself with the convention when, walking past Times Square, a man looked at me and said two unexpected words.

"Go home."

It took a second to register. Go home? Well, I actually am looking forward to going home tomorrow, getting some sleep, relaxing over Labor Day. But wait! What about the attitude?

Hey -- it happens all the time, I thought. Just shrug it off. So, confronted with fight or flight, I did what any objective, professionally trained, seasoned journalist would do.

I turned around and went back after him.

"Excuse me," I said, tapping the man on the shoulder as I came up behind him on the sidewalk. "I'm a journalist in town covering the convention. Did you just tell me to 'Go home?'"

"Yes, I did," he said, stopping. "You guys have done a horrible job covering this convention. I'm sick of reading about it."

I got a good look at him. Professional-Dockers dress, close-cropped hair, a button on his shirt with a W-with-a-line-through-it. Thin-rimmed glasses, about my age, holding a cup of Starbuck's and built like he drinks one every morning.

"Fine," I said, "but you don't know me. I'm just a guy walking down the street."

"This convention's the most inconvenient thing I've ever seen," he continued. "Our city's losing money, I can't get anywhere I want to go ... " He turned to walk into what I'm assuming was his workplace.

"Well, I'm sorry this all comes down to you," I said.

He shrugged, and kept moving. "Go home!" he shouted one more time.

I shouted back. "It's called DEMOCRACY, dude!" And I kept walking too. I crossed the street before the light turned red, knowing I'd soon be at my job of (attempting to) fairly present political debate. And he'd soon be at his desk, chuckling over his coffee at the journalist who just doesn't get it.

Do conventions make you fat? And other questions

Apparently the protester did make it onto C-SPAN, at least.

Dear readers: It's been a pleasure conversing with you throughout this week. I've gained insight, support, some needed humbling -- although unfortunately, none of you have dug up the identity of the Mini Cooper driver from Johnson County. Throughout, you've been asking questions about the convention and what life is like at it. Here, I attempt to answer some frequently asked questions (and some that I just made up because I want to talk about them):

Q: Do conventions make you fat?
A: They could, but not if you're properly doing your job. Conventions based on American social mores inevitably involve grazing, and every function involves free food and drink. But conventions also involve a lot of walking -- especially in New York -- so it balances out somewhat. My weight-control strategy has been to eat junk food like a Garbage Pail Kid for several days, then cut back as the sight of food begins to make me nauseous. It's working so far.

Q: What about taxicabs? What do the cabbies think?
A: Readers from the Democratic convention will remember a passing fascination with the political opinions of cabdrivers. One would think New York's legendary cabbies would be a worthy topic. But this time I've found them reticent with their political opinions. My theory is that they assume I'm a Republican delegate, and don't want to say anything that's bad for business.

Q: How can you stand spending all week with REPUBLICANS!?!
A: The same way I stood spending all week with DEMOCRATS!?! in July. They're people with opinions, often quite articulate ones, and the company is usually a pleasure.

Q: Who dances better?
A: Democrats. But both parties are pretty awful.

Q: How have the protesters been?
A: Gradually less noticeable each day. That may conflict with news accounts, but that's been my observation.

Q: What about security?
A: My allergies are acting up, and every time I've sneezed within earshot of cops, at least one officer has always said "bless you."

Q: Is the reporters' area as cold as it was in Boston?
A: That's been weird. Boston started out really cold, then got better. New York started well, and yesterday evening, I started shivering.

Q: What did you think of Schwarzenegger's speech?
A: Didn't see it. I have a bone to pick with Schwarzenegger, though, as he indirectly kept me out of a party on Wednesday.

Q: So what's been better, Boston or New York?
A: Boston was fine, but New York has so many advantages. Transit's easier, everything's more compact, and the main convention site doesn't feel like a city unto itself -- it's better integrated with the city and citizens. Security's been omnipresent, but pretty unobtrusive. Nothing's more than 10 minutes away from anything else.

Boston basically shut down the Fleet Center area for the convention, making the area seem like an island. New York couldn't do that, and it's made the whole affair more cosmopolitan, protests and all. And frankly, covering Kansas, I'm just better connected. The Democratic Party loves Kathleen Sebelius and fights for Dennis Moore, but the state simply has a greater number of prominent Republicans. That makes Kansas more connected to the party, and by extension, I'm more in the loop too. The delegation alone has a track-and-field legend, the most-booked senator on the Sunday news shows, and a national leader of the religious right. Add a guy named Dole to that, and the invitations add up.

Q: Having been to both conventions, sho's going to win, Bush or Kerry?
A: We may have a better sense of that tonight, after the speech. Watching Bush's stump speech on C-SPAN in recent days, Democrats should not misunderestimate him. But this campaign won't be decided by Labor Day. We still have debates and the unknown to deal with, and that may matter this year more than ever.

Wednesday, September 01, 2004


I was sitting in the press stand during Cheney's speech when about 20 feet away a protester started shouting, trying to disrupt the address. Secret Service swarmed, but the protester was a fair amount of space from an aisle, so it took about a minute to escort the person out the exit. (I say "the protester" because I'm not certain of the gender of the gaunt, blonde-curly-haired individual. I'm thinking that's got to come out in a press follow-up.)

What was striking was everyone's reaction. Much of the crowd on the floor craned their necks to see what was going on one tier up. While security struggled with the individual, the crowd started chanting "four more years" while Cheney stood on the podium, waiting. I have no idea if he knew what was going on, but the chant stopped as soon as the protester disappeared. I don't even know if the TV cameras caught it, although the disturbance happened right under one of the cable balcony spots. Did anybody catch it?

Dan Glickman, reprised

It was understandable when Dan Glickman showed up everywhere at the Democratic National Convention in Boston, but apparently he's everywhere in New York too. Former Wichita Eagle Washington correspondent Tom Webb, now at the St. Paul Pioneer Press (and a darn fine blogger, too), ran into Glickman last night inside Sardi's, a swankish restaurant on Times Square. Webb covered Glickman in the '80s and '90s, so they undoubtedly discussed things like the invention of the airplane, the taming of fire, etc. But seriously, folks ... Glickman's playing both sides now as head of the Motion Picture Association of America, a job he officially starts today.

Also, on the topic of fellow bloggers, if you look on the KC Star's Web site you'll see smiling mugs of Travis Lenkner and me. Travis is blogging as a GOP delegate, much as Dem delegates blogged from Boston. It's another perspective, and a pretty darn interestin' one. Haven't met Travis, but judging from the photo it definitely looks like I could tell him a thing or two about ... when the airplane was invented, or the taming of fire ... (sigh)


It IS Dave Barry. And he's blogging! He looked deep in thought (humor is a serious business) so I just said, Dave Barry? And he said, yes. (Handshake.)

Exchanged two more sentences after that -- I try not to bug the "name" journalists around here (saw Wolf Blitzer at a deli yesterday, brushed against George Stephanopoulos on a stairway), but I did say I'd link to his blog to help build his readership in Kansas City, so here it is. I mean, I'm just trying to help a fellow blogger, you know. We're, like, practically peers.

Dave Barry

Hmmmm ... I think Dave Barry may be sitting at the computer in front of me. I 'll wait a few minutes to see if he turns around -- I'm sure he's checking my blog constantly, so he may be reading this. If that doesn't happen, I'll check.

The GOP Divide

Today's NY Times has this story about a closed-door rally for religious conservatives led by Sen. Sam Brownback. Brownback went into more detail on themes he addressed briefly in his convention speech last night: ending international trafficking in women, outlawing abortion, and religious persecution abroad.

Meanwhile, Kansas's new national committeeman for the Republican National Committee, Steve Cloud, was honored last night by The Republican Majority for Choice. The Lenexa Republican managed to get the party to moderate its position on abortion in its 2004 platform last week. The platform now includes language saying Republicans "respect and accept that members of our Party have deeply held and sometimes differing views."

True -- but that doesn't mean they're always happy about them.

Lose some, win some

Had a ticket, was on the list, everything -- and I still didn't get into the Distilled Spirits' Council's "Spirits of New York" party last night at the New York Yacht Club. Rumors spread that Arnold Schwarzenegger was coming to one of the night's top parties, so suddenly every Capitol Hill fly and Californian needed to be at the door, touting their connections to The Governator. I spent 45 minutes in the rope line when the fire marshals showed up and said they weren't letting more people in. Might've saved me from myself. Went back to the hotel and got a good 5 hours' sleep.

Much better luck at the Great American Farm Breakfast this morning -- sponsored by Koch Nitrogen, among others. Knew about it, but wasn't RSVPed or nothin'. Just walked up to the entrance and said (suddenly developing a southern Plains drawl), "Ahm from Wich-a-taw, and I'd like ta go to tha fawrm breakfast." Got let right in, and had one darn well-prepared, American-grown meal. And not a Terminator in sight. One more reason to love rural America.